Tag Archives: Back to Eden

What a Covering Has Done to My Soil

April 30, 2015

If you have read this blog for any amount of time, you know I cover the garden with woodchips. You may even know about the Back to Eden Film. If not, you should watch it!

Many people are realizing the benefits of covering the soil. There are many. However, in true American fashion, many are wondering why they are not having Paul’s results (from 30 years of gardening) in their first year or two. This post is to give you hope and encourage you to stick with it and trust the process!

We started our BTE (back to eden) garden 3 years ago when I was finally able to get up with some Asplundh folks. Our first year, we layered with aged cow manure. We got chickens 2 years ago and I am able to get horse manure about once a year so many times, our garden is covered with that along with woodchips. Sometimes, when we are expanding the garden, which we try to do as much as possible, all we have is cardboard and woodchips. As Paul would say, ‘use what you have’. So we do šŸ™‚

For those of you new to Back to Eden or who are interested, I took some pictures of my soil to show you what a blessing a covering is and how it gets better and better each year.

Starting with our first ever BTE garden: Started 3 years ago, covered in newspapers, aged cow manure, then 6″ of woodchips. Each fall, it has been covered in a light layer of chicken manure (when I clean out the coop) and woodchips. You can see the woodchips are breaking down as you get further and further down. There is clay still about 6″ down.

Nieto Photography 2015This section of the garden was prepped by our young pullets 2 years ago in a chicken tractor. We then covered it with newspaper and woodchips. It has since been covered by horse manure and woodchips. Even 6″ down, NO clay. It is transitioning into rich, beautiful black soil. Nieto Photography 2015This patch is under our apple tree. It was covered 2 years ago with cardboard and mulch. It has been layered with horse manure and mulch for the past two winters. Everything seems to grow well under and around the apple tree. No clay to be found (at least 6″ down). Nieto Photography 2015 Here is a section that was covered with newspaper and woodchips 1 year ago. You do not see any clay; but that is because 6″ down, you are just getting to soil. Without manure, it takes longer to get good soil. It will still happen; it will just take longer. All you can see in this picture is woodchips…and not very broken down at that. Nieto Photography 2015The next section was prepped this past August (less than 12mo ago). All we had was cardboard and woodchips so that is what we used. Check out all that clay! I am not discouraged for two reasons. Number 1: I know it will get better in time. Number 2: See the next picture. Nieto Photography 2015This next picture is 15 feet away. It is part of the newly-expanded garden we worked on this past August. However, this part was covered lightly in chicken manure when I cleaned out the coop this winter. What a difference! (There is clay about 4″ down.) Nieto Photography 2015 As you can see:

  1. Covering your garden conditions and improves your soil more and more as time passes.
  2. Animal manure speeds up this process.
  3. If you do not have all the recommended materials, use what you have! It will get better and you can always add more later.

PS. NEVER till/work anything in. Just keep layering!

Sometimes, when I am raking back mulch to plant, I’ll drag the edge of my rake through the mulch to see if I have reached soil yet (PLANT IN THE SOIL!!!). My kids will chastise me for ’tilling’ and possibly killing worms and microbes šŸ™‚ They are so brainwashed. ha! I love it!

Speaking of, at some point, I’ll do a post on how to plant in a BTE garden. You cannot plant like Paul does when you have 6-8″ of mulch to work through. If you have any questions or anything you would like for me to address regarding BTE gardening, let me know!

Until then, watch the film, watch the YouTube videos, and garden on! šŸ™‚

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Eating Healthy…On the CHEAP!

I hear all the time how expensive it is to eat healthily. May I suggest growing some of the food you eat?

I have tried gardening for the past 7 years. Until the last two years, it was very difficult. Then I saw The Back to Eden Film.

Ever since we have been gardening with a covering, we have been producing more and more of our food. I hope, in 2015, to produce 90% of the food we consume.

But what does that look like? Here are some examples of what we eat. I will make note of what is from the garden and what I had to buy. (I do not include cost of wheat or beans because a relative died recently (he was a ‘prepper’) and we received all of his wheat berries and beans.)

For breakfasts, we typically eat oatmeal with blueberries and honey or eggs, jelly bread, and fruit. We drink water. I pay for the oatmeal and oil to make the bread. The rest comes from the garden (except fresh fruit in the winter).Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0011On Saturdays, we have something special to eat and drink. The milk is bought for the pancakes and the beet juice includes store-bought apples. If I do not make juice, I will buy orange juice. The rest is from the garden.DSC_4625(beet-blueberry pancakes and honey pancakes, eggs, blueberries and strawberry) DSC_4631(with beet juice)

Our lunches are chickpea salad, egg salad, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with almonds and whatever veggies and fruit are in the garden (peas, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries). I buy the almonds, mayonaise, peanut butter, and oil (bread).

Some suppers…

From the Garden: lettuce, the first green beans, and the first potatoes. The corn was given to us. This was likely eaten with some type of bean ‘main’ dish.
$$ spent: ketsup

Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0438From the Garden: sweet potatoes, green beans, lettuce.
$$ spent: condiments to make baked beans.

DSC_4612From the Garden: lettuce, first tomato!, green beans, potatoes. (homemade bread)
$$ spent: ketsup, onions, spices, and marinara (sloppy joes)
DSC_4662From the Garden: cabbage, carrots, zucchini, potatoes, corn
$$ spent: ketsup, onion, spices, marinara sauce (sloppy joes)DSC_4749From the Garden: corn, zucchini, potatoes (mashed), kale, carrots, squash, tomatoes, onions
$$ spent: cheese (zucchini quiche), pasta, apples, raisins, oil (for salad)Nieto Family - July 24 14 - 0252Pasta Primavera. Noodles bought. All else from garden. To.Die.For. Nieto Family - July 24 14 - 0251From the Garden: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, kale, spaghetti squash, green beans (homemade crust)
$$ spent: marinara sauce, cheese, artichokesDSC_5074From the Garden: corn, green beans, potatoes, zucchini, green peppers
$$ spent: ketsup, various spices for bean burgersDSC_5086From the Garden: spinach, raspberry, sweet potato, green beans, peas, corn, carrots (homemade crust)
$$ spent: riceDSC_5772From the Garden: sweet potatoes, kale, green beans (homemade bread)
$$ spent: apples, oil, various spices for the bean burgers, cinnamonDSC_5790From the Garden: sweet potato, spinach, carrots, green beans, pecans
$$ spent: condiments to make baked beansDSC_6323From the Garden: green beans, sweet potatoes, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes in marinara (homemade bread)
$$ spent: mustard, mayo, various spicesĀ© Nieto Photography - Nietophotography.com - 919.495.5916 - Christopher NietoAs you can see, when we eat like this, very little money is spent at all. I basically buy spices and condiments. These are things I could make but I choose not to. I am intimidated by growing herbs and I am afraid the condiments would spoil before we use them.

In the winter, we eat a lot of soups. Lentil soup with fried eggs, mashed sweet potatoes, and sweet potato biscuits…Split pea soup with a salad and yeast rolls…Vegetable soup with a salad and biscuits…all are basically free (other than spices).

We eat other meals that are not nearly as garden-centric such as rice and beans with guacamole, boiled eggs, and salsa. That, obviously, costs more than something that is straight out of the garden but it is still very cheap (about $2.50 for the whole meal…50c/person).

You can feed your family cheaply and healthily. It IS possible. It is a lot easier when your organic produce is grown just outside your front door.

Please do not be overwhelmed by the amount of food I grow, either! Two years ago, I had some raised beds, a potato patch, and a tomato patch. Last year, I expanded that by 5 more sections. I have made 7 more sections for the 2015 garden. As long as you are learning, you are doing great šŸ™‚

So go watch the Back to Eden Film! Start your Back to Eden Garden. Feed your family wonderfully healthy, tasty, free (other than seed purchase) food!

I am linking up with Simple Lives Thursday, Green Thumb Thursday, and Friday Blog Hop, hoping to give others encouragement on how they can feed their family cheaply and healthily šŸ™‚

Garden Expansion, Continued…

September 10, 2014

We are always trying to expand the garden. As IĀ  blogged about earlier, we collect a lot of cardboard from the local elementary school every year and lengthen the garden. We typically do this in the fall so the areas can be covered with manure and will be ready to be planted in the spring.

This year, I did this with three spaces. Before we started doing a Back to Eden garden, we had to use tarp to keep the grass away from the blueberry bushes. So, in order to expand, I typically have to:

  1. Rake back six or so inches of decomposing mulch (NOT light and fluffy as ‘fresh’ mulch would be)
  2. Cut away 2-3 layers of tarp with scissors
  3. Cut away 1-2 layers of weed cloth
  4. Cover with mulch that was raked away
  5. Put down some compost

I did this in an area between the tomato and potato patch (I am thinking it will be next year’s potato patch)DSC_5373and beside both strawberry patches.

The strawberry plants have put out a TON of runners over the summer…into the tarp covered with mulch (not going to grow well). So, after expanding the skinny strawberry patch, I planted some runners.

The bunch to the left is what I planted this spring. The spaced out ones are the runners I planted.Nieto Family - August 25 14 - 0002This is halfway. I filled up the whole area with runners by the end of the morning.

I also planted some celery stumps that have been growing indoors. We’ll see how everything does.Nieto Family - August 25 14 - 0003Lastly, I expanded the other strawberry patch. When cutting away the tarps, I saw two blueberry shoots. I just left them alone. I am going to let them come up on their own. We’ll just have a blueberry bush amongst the strawberries šŸ™‚ I covered the strawberry patch with chicken compost and am letting it sit this winter. I have not decided if I am going to plant anything in that space or not. I am leaning toward letting the strawberries expand on their own and filling in the gaps with more runners next year.

Before compost…

Nieto Family - August 31 14 - 0001After compost DSC_5386(This picture was taken before a storm. Do you see the plants turning their leaves, asking for rain?)

How did I get all of this compost? I cleaned out the coop, of course. I clean out the coop a number of times each year but I have never cleaned it out this much. Since the chickens are not laying šŸ˜¦ my husband took out the nesting boxes and I was able to COMPLETELY clean out the coop. DSC_5355The only thing I did not do was wash it out. DSC_5357I do not see that ever happening. It was hard work and I am glad it is done! The coop is now nice and clean and three patches are ready to sit all winter in their compost blanket, enjoying compost tea every time it rains.DSC_5365 DSC_5366

As soon as we get back from vacation, I need to go to the local horse stables and cover the rest of the areas that will sit through the winter. I also have more fall crops to plant and I have over 200 bulbs that are being mailed to me in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, I can get it all done before winter!

Who wants to come lend a hand?! You can just hold the baby while I work — that would be a help too! šŸ˜€

Expanding the Garden, Fall Planting, and Chicken Death

August 27, 2013

We have been busy, as usual, this week.

  • Expanding the garden
  • Fall planting
  • Cleaning out the coop
  • Expanding the run
  • Dealing with chicken death

Expanding the Garden

Our church meets in an elementary school. Right before school starts, the cafeteria is getting food in, the teachers are unpacking boxes…there is a ton of cardboard to be had. So we load up all the cardboard we can and expand the garden every fall.

Before:10484629_791900920860759_4757761746985017869_oAfter:10533883_791900957527422_3687780063672357214_oSometime this fall, winter, or spring…whenever I get around to it…I’ll go to the local horse stables and cover this whole area with horse manure. Depending on when I am able to get the manure down, I may plant in it spring 2015.

Fall Planting

I planted some more broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce this week. It is supposedly too late to plant but I am continuing to plant just to see… I am using old seed so it is only costing me time and labor at this point. Nieto Family - August 22 14 - 0126This used to be the spaghetti squash patch. We moved the chicken tractor over it and I planted cabbage on the outsides and broccoli in the two middle rows.

  • The tractor can be covered to protect the brassicas from cabbage moths/butterflies
  • It can be covered in plastic to extend the season
  • Hopefully, I can use this area to get a jump start on spring/summer crops

Cleaning Out the Coop

We are in the process of collecting wood shavings from a local mill so we can clean out the coop completely and cover as much of the garden as possible with that wonderful compost.Nieto Family - August 22 14 - 0105

Expanding the Run

We got rid of the chicken tunnels for the time being. They are impossible to mow around and I was tired of stepping over them šŸ˜› We instead expanded the run. It now goes from the coop to the house (our entire side yard).

Dealing with Chicken Death

We think two of our pullets got into something (but don’t know what) when we expanded the run because they both died. These are both chicks that were hatched at the homestead. One was 12 weeks oldDSC_5149 and the other was just about egg-laying age. DSC_5145She was gorgeous. It was saddest to lose her. Also, because she was so big, it took her longer to die. After a couple of days of no eating, drinking, or getting up, my husband had to just break her neck šŸ˜¦

Of course, we have no clue what exactly happened to them. They both had droopy wings and were tripping over themselves. Towards the end, they would have seizures. After they died, my husband went around picking up many of the chickens, inspecting them, so we could tell if any of the rest of them were losing weight or looking ill. Everyone looks fine (as fine as moulting birds can look) so far.

One curious thing happened though. When the chickens started moulting, our rooster stopped crowing…Is that normal? He is not even a year old so he is not moulting…any thoughts?

I am linking up with Green Thumb Thursdays to see how others are prepping their fall/winter gardens and to see if others have insight on my chicken deaths.

Corn Patch, The Next Phase

August 1, 2014

2013 Corn

I tried to plant a 3-sister’s garden with corn, pumpkin, and pole beans.

You are supposed to plant the corn first. Then, when the corn is 4 inches tall, you are to plant the beans and squash.box 2I let the corn get too tall so none of the pumpkin produced and only a few beans climbed the corn. Raccoons got into the corn – ate most of it, in fact.full image fallen stalkdeer corn rippedcorn The only corn that was untouched were the ones with beans climbing up them.

2014 Corn

So this year, I tried again. Being 8mo pregnant at corn planting time, I knew there was a good chance I would be unable to plant the beans and squash when the corn reached 4 inches tall so I just planted all of the corn, beans, and squash at the same time.

I planted twice as many seeds as needed because you never know what germination is going to be. I learned my lesson. Only one seed per hole next time. I would rather have spotty germination, which has never been an issue, than a crowded spot that gets less sun and therefore produces poorly.

Because everything was planted at the same time, the beans shaded out the corn. I had to pull some beans later in order to give some of the corn a chance.

_DSC9579Nieto Family - June 13 14 - 0073Eventually, the beans did what I planned for them to do._DSC3277 There was one mishap in which a bean vine choked a corn cob but it only happened to one of them so it was not a big deal.DSC_4831Most of the squash was decimated by squash bugs. Nieto Family - June 18 14 - 0002Only one spaghetti squash survived (barely) and one butternut squash is still going strong. _DSC6120The cucumber plants did well. I have always grown cucumbers up a trellis with not much luck. This year, I planted them in the shade of the corn and sunflowers and they have done so well! Yay! šŸ™‚_DSC6123 The point of the squash is to suppress weeds. Weeds are not much of an issue with a Back to Eden garden and the squash kind of just got in the way. I may just do beans and corn next year.

When it came time to pollinate, we had a huge storm (a couple, actually). Most of the pollen was blown away. Subsequently, most ears are not pollinated on the bottom of the ear, many have spotty pollination, and some are not pollinated at all. Also, most of the stalks fell. Most of those righted themselves but about 1/6? remained fallen.

We were picking and eating the corn as needed until the other night…Raccoons. Who needs to worry about climbing stalks when they’re laying on the ground?! They got about 8-10 ears. Sad šŸ˜¦ So we went ahead and ripped up all of the corn and beans. The beans were just to deter the raccoons. I left the butternut squash and cucumber plants. Everything else was ripped up, cleaned up and chicken compost was raked in.

2015 Corn

  1. Plant ONE seed/hole.
  2. Plant dry beans (pinto/black) with corn, so as to not waste seeds (both can be harvested at the same time).
  3. Maybe forgo planting squash?

Fall Garden:

  1. I ripped up all of the corn and beans and the kids hauled it to the chickens. (butternut squash plant and cucumber plants were left)
  2. I spread compost over the whole patch (two bucketfuls) and raked it in.
  3. I marked off (with sticks) a square in the middle of the patch (6’x7′) to plant carrots & beets.

DSC_5035 4.Ā  I placed carrot seed mats (per the late, great Granny) down and covered them with compost lightly so they would not blow away. DSC_5037 5.Ā  I planted peas on the border of half of the patch (2 ft all the way around). I will plant the rest of the border of the patch in a week or so in order to space out the pea harvest this fall.DSC_5038 6.Ā  I covered all of the seeds completely with compost, tamped them down… DSC_5036 7.Ā  and covered with mulch. I covered the carrots lightly, to just hold in moisture. The peas could be covered a bit more heavily. DSC_5077I will plant the second half of the corn patch with more peas and carrots and beets in a week or so. My thought is that I will be able to harvest the peas easily all the way around as two feet is not a far reach and the root crops will be ready to be harvested by the time the peas are ready to be ripped out. Hopefully it works out — I’ll let you know! šŸ˜€